Henri Nouwen has a beautiful reflection that can set the tone for this evening’s reflection. He writes, “Every time we take bread, bless it, break it and give it, we summarize the whole movement of God’s love. And during your lifetime Jesus will take you, bless you, break you and give you. We must grow to realize and accept that before we are broken, we have been blessed. We are not broken because of fault but because we are blessed sons and daughter, like Jesus. Our brokenness allows for us to be given to the world as bread for the world and in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters. We constantly see Jesus doing this, he takes, he blesses, he breaks and he gives. That’s what he does. Let’s not forget that. Like Jesus, we have been taken, blest, broken and given because we are beloved sons and daughters from our very beginning.
In our second reading we have Paul taking us back to that holy meal in which Jesus, takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread that is his very self – taking, blessing and giving wine that is his very self and commanding us to do this – this blessing, breaking and giving in His memory.
In the gospel we see Jesus acting as a servant and inviting us to be servants to each other – you also should do as I have done to you.
But how do we come to such a sense of service, of being there when others need us? How do come to that awareness of being so much a part of the parish family that we want to offer our gifts in service to the parish family, in service to the church. How do we come to see those in need as our brothers and sisters and meet their needs by being involved in public service?
Like the bread used at Mass we need to be blessed, broken and given. We are blessed – before the world began God chose us in Christ to be his adopted sons and daughters – we are blessed in the life giving waters of baptisms which witnesses to our being chosen.
We are broken – unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a grain. When through the grace of God the hard shell of our selfishness and self-centeredness is broken, then we are able to come to life and serve the needs of others – knowing them as brothers and sisters.
We are given when, through God’s grace we are willing to live this Mass inside and outside these walls in the lives we live, in the work we do, in the prayers we pray and in the service we give. And we have the strengthen and generosity to do that when we are nourished by the life giving bread of life, Jesus – who is blessed, broken and given for us at every Mass we celebrate.
In the gospel we hear how Jesus took off his outer robe and wrapped a towel around his waist and washed the feet of his friends. Tonight we can take off our outer robes of self importance, pride, haughtiness, superiority and instead of washing the feet of a few we wash the hands of all. When your hands are washed we ask you to take the towel and wait for the next person to have his/her hands washed and then you dry their hands.
As we continue to celebrate this holy night we can pray for ourselves and each other that like Jesus before us we may open our lives to be blessed, broken and given for the life of the world.